How to Cope with Stress-Induced Weight Gain
tress - a word that is as common as your daily dose of tea/coffee, has become a hot topic in every conversation. Be it with a colleague, a chit-chat with your friend, a class meeting with the parents, a motivational speech - the word “stress” is always part of the conversation.
What is stress?
Stress is a natural feeling of not being able to cope with specific demands and events around us, making it very harmful for our health. So, in layman’s term, stress is something you feel when you think you cannot cope effectively in an alarming situation. Some examples that I can give to help you relate to this feeling are - project completion in a week, loss of a job, death of a loved one, grade 10 & 12 Board exams.
Now that we understand what “stress” is, we should also know what happens in the body when there’s stress. The actual scientific explanation states that there is a stress hormone known as cortisol that is released in the body when a person is anxious or agitated. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are 2 more hormones that get released along with cortisol. Once the person calms down, epinephrine and norepinephrine levels return to normal while cortisol levels can remain elevated over a longer period.
Some of the symptoms of stress seen are:
- Physical - Low energy, headaches, upset tummy, sleeplessness, cold or sweaty hands
- Emotional - Easily agitated, frustrated, low self-esteem, depressed
- Cognitive - Constant worrying, forgetfulness, inability to focus
- Behavioral - Procrastination, fidgeting or pacing around, changes in appetite(eating more or very less)
Now, with the information given above, it is easy to infer that weight gain during stress is a behavioral problem. How? One of the reasons could be that the high levels of cortisol send messages to the brain that there is less energy in the body, making people crave for junk food that results in weight gain.
Now comes the next crucial step of knowing how to combat stress-induced weight gain. Here are some pointers to help you:
- Nutrition - A balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is the first step towards fighting stress. It is often seen that stress induces cravings for junk food. Choose healthy comfort food such as popcorn over pizza to help reduce weight gain considerably. Also, fresh fruits and vegetables can help boost immunity and release hormones that act as natural calming mechanisms.
- Exercise - Exercising is a vital step in managing stress and weight simultaneously. Exercising releases endorphins, the natural painkiller in the body. It relaxes the body, improves sleep, thereby reducing It is therefore advised by many doctors to make exercise a part of your daily schedule.
- Meditation and Yoga - These are activities that can also help in the release of endorphins. Try to incorporate them into your daily schedule to help you concentrate better and get rid of negative thoughts. Also, with endorphins in your body, the cortisol levels lower down, putting a stop to binge eating.
- Caffeine, Alcohol, and Smoking- Avoid the intake of caffeine and alcohol as much as possible. Smoking, alcohol, and caffeine are known to increase the levels of cortisol in the body, increasing the risk of adverse health effects.
- Talk to someone - Trivial, as it may sound, talking to someone about your problems can help you relax faster. Most of the stress faced by us is because we do not discuss our problems with others. It can cloud one’s judgment and sharing it with someone can help look at different solutions.
Stress is a part of every person’s fast-paced modern lifestyle and hence, must be handled effectively.
Stay healthy, stay positive.